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How the USDA Gutted Federal Organic Food Standards

Sunday 12 February 2006

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Federal Food Policy & Organic Inconsistencies

by Joshua Frank - February 11, 2006

Healthy living has become the national obsession these past few decades. Awareness about food’s nutritional content is also on the rise — many health conscious Americans are concerned with the quality and content of the food they are scarfing down every day.

As these interests have grown, so has the organic food movement. Organics, as the general definition puts it, are products that are not grown genetically, and are developed without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides or hormones.

Congress soon followed and passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990, which was attached to the Farm Bill and established the initial framework to create National Organic Standards, which set the legal standards for organic foods - in October 2002, USDA officially began labeling foods that met the agency’s definition of ‘organic’ - products with 95% organic content or higher.

Attempting to define what USDA considers “organic” is like trying to figure out which lie George W. Bush told last — it is a difficult, if not impossible task. Since 2002, USDA has changed their definition almost every year.

If a mega-farm wants an exception from the rules, it can be all too tempting for the enforcing officer who receives a commission, to make allowances.

Case in point: In 2002, an accredited USDA-certifier allowed Georgia chicken producer, Fieldale Chickens, to label its products organic while only having to use ten percent organic feed instead of 100 percent required by the NOP under USDA’s guidelines.

Fieldale spent tens of thousands of dollars to hire a prime time Washington lobbyist to help change organic standards at USDA. And with the help of the Georgia delegation in Congress, they were successful.

Today all seafood, body care products, and clothing, fertilizers and pet food can be labeled "organic” regardless of how they were manufactured. And on December 13, 2005, the U.S. Senate passed the 2006 Appropriations bill, which included language that weakened even more USDA organic labeling standards.

Young dairy cows can now be treated with antibiotics and can also be fed genetically engineered feed. Not only that, numerous synthetic food additives and processing agents can now be used in USDA approved organic foods.

...loopholes now exist in the federal statutes, which allow for the substitution of non-organic ingredients without any public notification or oversight.

...organic foods have been corporitized. They are in it to make big money and there are billions to be made. As the organic food industry has matured, USDA standards have waned. Consumers can no longer be confidant that their foods meet organic standards, even if USDA gives it its green mark of approval.

source: Federal Food Policy

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